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VA Linux Systems to launch open source one-stop shop

Latest Linux company to pick up on the portal business model

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VA Linux Systems will take its SourceForge open source software foundry out of beta and into the commercial mainstream later this month. SourceForge is essentially a large-scale distributed project management system that allows open source development team leaders to juggle the contributions of staffers and external programmers and ensure everyone is kept up to date.

Full-scale open source efforts will be hosted free of charge, but SourceForge is also available to more corporate-led commercial distributed development projects for a fee VA has to make this pay somehow; it has that huge stock price to justify, after all. Commercial projects will be billed between $600 and $1000 per user.

The benefits for VA's bottom line aside, SourceForge is a canny idea, and represents the kind of project management service that will be essential if open source development is to become a mainstream programming technique. Managing development contributions from everyone and their dog is no mean feat, particularly when commercial release schedules and professional quality control requirements become an issue.

VA also sees SourceForge as becoming Linux users' and developers' one-stop shop for Linux and open source software. As the company's president and CEO, Larry Augustin, put it: "There needs to be a place where everyone can go and get every release of Linux and other projects. We view it as a way to maintain the relationship with the community." And, indeed, a way of moving beyond more basic Linux distribution business model into a more portal-style approach, much as Red Hat is already doing with its website with the addition of related offerings such as online magazine WideOpen.

Such schemes subtly promote brand over product, make it easier for companies to differentiate themselves (tricky, when your products are as near as damnit identical) and provide access to that lovely ad revenue stream. We expect other Linux companies - particularly those with designs on the IT mainstream - to launch similar offerings.

VA has a significant head-start, however. Over 3000 developers signed up during the SourceForge site's first seven weeks of beta testing, and the company claims the number of registered developers is growing by around 25 per cent a week. That should increase further when VA launches the site officially around the middle of this month with a major marketing drive. ®

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